Sacred bundle

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Native American prayer bundles at Birch Coulee in Minnesota.

Sacred bundle are medicine bundles or collections of sacred items held by designated carriers from Native American tribes.[1] According to a Harvard University report, tribal elders are entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the bundles.[2]

According to Patricia Deveraux, a member of the Blackfeet tribe in Alberta, "These are holy bundles given to us by the Creator to hold our people together... They're the same as the relics from the Catholic Church. They are a demonstration of the holy spirit. They can heal people."[3]


Sacred bundles are a powerful part of Pawnee ceremonies linked to planting and harvesting. They contain tools necessary to those ceremonies, and the rituals and ceremonies associated with them are passed from generation to generation along with the bundles. Bundles are owned by women and inherited through the female line, but can be used by men only. According to Black Elk of the Oglala Lakota, the first woman chosen to care for the sacred bundle was Red Day Woman, and all women subsequently chosen to care for the sacred bundle were regarded as holy people.[4]

To open or use a bundle without the proper ritual and ceremony portends disaster.

Bundle contents vary according to ritual and customs. A bundle at the Kansas State Historical Society has been x-rayed to identify its contents, which are wrapped in an ocher-stained bison hide. There are several ceremonial objects tied to the outside of the bundle, including a long smoking pipe, arrow fragments, a meat fork tipped with a raccoon bone, and small American flags. According to the x-ray analysis inside are stuffed bird bundles, hawk bells, counting sticks, and glass beads sewn on a leather strip.[5]

Some Pawnee kept intricate star charts in their bundles.[6]


The sacred bundle is also known from Mesoamerica, particularly from the Aztecs and the Quiché Mayas (see Popol Vuh). The pre-Aztec Borgia Codex uniquely visualizes the mystic powers emanating from such a bundle. Bundles held by members of the royal family are particularly prominent in the art of the Classic Maya kingdom of Yaxchilan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Sacred Bundle". Retrieved 12/1/08.
  2. ^ Bare, J. "Promising Practices: Evaluation and the Sacred Bundle", The Evaluation Exchange. Volume XI, Number 2, Summer 2005. Retrieved 12/1/08.
  3. ^ Johnsrude, L. (2002) "Natives celebrate return of sacred bundle; Spirits back home", Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 12/1/08.
  4. ^ Black Elk and Brown, J.E. (1989) The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Oglala Sioux. University of Oklahoma Press, 1989 p 18.
  5. ^ "Sacred Pawnee Bundle", Kansas State Historical Society. Retrieved 12/1/08.
  6. ^ "Space Talk: Pawnee Sky Observations", Hands-On Astrophysics. Retrieved 12/1/08.

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